| Sunday 23rd
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Championship deciders rarely disappoint. With so much resting on such
games, it's hardly a surprise. But can the same levels of excitement and
tension be replicated in a Sunday League game? You bet they can. With
a local element added, Manics Reserves vs Priestwood was a derby too,
and the players responded superbly. A clean game, contested by easily
the best two teams in the division. The maths was simple. Manics needed
a draw or a win, for Priestwood only a win would do.
In their familiar midnight navy strip, Manics Reserves started brightly
- in the great Manics tradition. Chris Wilson's trickery and Lee Blackmans
pace and awareness created a clutch of early chances for the home team.
After just 7 minutes, the deadlock was deservedly broken. Barry
Herman, whose energy never seems to drop, found himself at the
right place at the right time to steer home an effort into the corner
of the net at the second attempt. Although his goal celebrations were
understandable, there was still a lot of work to do.
The goal did nothing for the Manics' momentum as Priestwood took a grip
of the game. Their skipper Steven Bell soon began to come to grips with
the threat of Wilson and Blackman and their increasingly combatant midfield
duo stood strong against Ben Westwood and Herman in the middle of the
park. Their no.9 worked tirelessly and was a constant danger, keeping
David Fenton and Brian Judge very busy in central defence. The first half,
despite the goal, elsewhere belonged to Priestwood. However a succession
of corners and long range efforts proved fruitless, thanks largely to
wayward finishing, bad luck and one inspirational save from Manics keeper
So at half-time the Manics were in front. The huddle that preceded the
second half confirmed their commitment to the cause, as leader James Blackman
urged his troops to keep the faith. After they had thrown away three points
so many times in recent weeks, the Manics were more determined than ever
not to let the title slip. This attitude prompted a resolute rear-guard
action from the league leaders, but not many waves of swift attacks.
Again possession belonged to Priestwood as the likes of Westwood and Blackman
(who had dropped into midfield) struggled to get a clean hold of the ball.
Manics only attacking passes came from the boot of the manager, James
Blackman, who continually sought out runs from Herman, Wilson and the
wing wizards turned almost wing-backs David Comper and Harry Clowse. However,
they just couldn't make the ball stick as Priestwood threatened an equaliser.
Adams, Fenton and Judge must have been pleased that all the away team
could muster was long range efforts: until one of the goals of the season
was scored. From around 25 yards out, the Priestwood skipper, whose influence
had grown as the game grew old, blasted an unstoppable equaliser past
an awe-struck Adams.
This goal strenghtened the Manics resolve, as Priestwood camped out in
the Manics half of the field. As tiredness set in, Wilson failed to get
enough support as he tried to hold the ball up. Long range chance followed
long range chance as Priestwood began to run out of ideas. With any rare
attacking ventures dying because of wayward finishing or the unwelcome
sight of an offside flag, the Manics looked drained.
Luke Phillips replaced Wilson with 10 minutes remaining, as James Blackman
attempted to freshen the legs up front. And Phillips almost put the seal
on the title with a speculative strike from the halfway line, but his
shot was too weak to trouble Perry in the Priestwood goal. This foray
up front was a rare excursion for the Manics as Priestwood kept pushing
against the Manics, but they found a central defensive team that refused
to be broken. Judge and Fenton let nothing go past them throughout the
game and frustrated the title challengers until the final whistle went.
And when it did sound it sparked massive celebrations on the pitch and
on the side line. 1-1, enough for league glory.
In their first season Bracknell Manics can proudly boast silverware. Assured
in a championship decider that did not disappoint at all. Well done to
FC Priestwood who in true sportsmanship tried so hard to make it their
name on the trophy, but the character of the Manics shone through..
Scorers: Herman (1).
Assists: Wilson (1).
The Manics Man
of the Match went to David Fenton and the Referee's Player of the Match
went to Ben Westwood.
Thanks to the fans who came to watch!
Manics Res 1 FC Priestwood 1
for Bracknell Manics FC